Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sea Monsters: "...They May Have Fought Each Other"

A while back we talked about C. megalodon, the giant, prehistoric shark that could have swallowed a modern submarine. It's a little terrifying to imagine critters that big roaming the oceans but when I do I console myself with the fact that modern whales, now the most common large sea creatures, are some of the gentlest animals on the planet. Modern whales being the operative phrase.

Last week I found this article from BBC online which tells us yet again about a huge carnivore that once roamed the seas. In this case, the creature was a giant whale with teeth in the neighborhood of a foot long. From the article:

[The whale] is thought to have been more than 17 m long, and might have engaged in fierce battles with other giant sea creatures of the time... Leviathan was an aggressive predator.

You read that correctly, by the way. Dr.Christian de Muizon of the Natural History Museum, Paris, who led the excavation team that found the mega-whale's skeleton in Peru, named the creature Leviathan. As he tells us:

It is interesting to note that at the same time in the same waters was another monster, which was a giant shark...

That would be our pal C. megalodon and that's just plane shudder inducing. Honestly, it is no wonder our seafaring ancestors got a little sketchy when they lost sight of land. Maybe, like fear of the dark, a primate instinct to fear huge, sharp-toothed monsters followed them onto the ocean.

The fossil skull of the whale, which is approximately 9 feet long, was found in 2008 on the last day of de Muizon's team's dig. The scientists immediately recognized it as similar to the skull of a sperm whale but, once they examined the teeth, they knew that they were dealing with a very different animal. Individual whale teeth of the type found with the skull had been identified before, but this discovery confirmed the speculation that they belonged to an aggressive carnivore.

Since Leviathan so resembled another legendary whale whose ferocious behavior is famous, the researchers almost immediately gave their find it's current scientific name. Many of them were fans of Herman Melville's classic Mody Dick. So now this great monster will go down in history as Leviathan melvillei. I'm sure Mr. Melville, whose book was so unjustly panned in his lifetime, would be proud.


Anonymous said...

Hi Pauline,
came across your blog while researching wooden figureheads. I have a beautiful one for sale for an estate, and was trying to find out more it - time period, etc.

She's in puritan garb with red hear and both breasts bared. Would you know anyone you cuold point me to as an expert?


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! Yikes! That thing would certainly leave a mark...

I'm sensing another Sci-fi (or "Syfy") channel original movie here: "Megashark vs. Leviathan".

It would work better than their latest idea, Pirate Queen: "Mega Python vs. Gatoroid," in which 1980s pop stars Debbie Gibson and Tiffany have been cast as dueling rivals (with 1970s pop star and former Monkee Mickey Dolenz also in the cast):

Pauline said...

Ahoy KT and Timmy!

KT: thanks for stopping by and welcome aboard. I would recommend contacting the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Cape Haderous, N.C.:

or the Maritime Museum of San Diego, CA:

Either would probably be a great jumping off point for continued research and they should know of smaller museums or experts doing research on figureheads. Frankly, I wish I knew more about figureheads and I try to gather info on them whenever I have a chance.

Do let me know what you find out about yours. It sounds beautiful.

Timmy: No kidding. Com'on, SyFy; bring us the Mongolian ice worm movie and the Leviathan vs Megalodon film. Quit jerking around.